Iowa Hawkeyes

Midlands Championships likely to remain at Sears Centre Arena

Venue has been positive experience last 3 years; Iowa sorting out 184; Southeast Polk duo reach awards stand

Iowa's Cash Wilke (left) and Nelson Brands grapple in a 184-lb consolation round match in the semi-finals of the Midland
Iowa’s Cash Wilke (left) and Nelson Brands grapple in a 184-lb consolation round match in the semi-finals of the Midlands Wrestling Tournament in Hoffman Estates, IL on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. Wilke won 4-2. (David Harmantas/Freelance)

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Sears Centre Arena has hosted the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships for the last three years.

One of college wrestling’s marquee regular season events had been held at Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena for 54 years until the facility underwent a 19-month, $110-million renovation.

With the renovation complete, the two-day individual tournament has remained here. The business relationship will likely continue.

“I think it’s working its way into being the permanent home,” Director of the Midlands Championships Tim Cysewski said during third session of the 57th annual event Monday afternoon. “They do a great job here. We feel very comfortable having it here.”

Cysewski, a former four-year starter for the University of Iowa and 1976 All-American, coached the Wildcats for 20 seasons after an eight-year stint as an assistant. He remained on staff as an associate head coach before assuming his current role.

“My thought would be a temporary thing and we’ll get back to McGaw (Memorial) Hall and it will be great as a renovation,” Cysewski said. “Once we had it out here the first time, I walked in and the first time we had it set up the first year I was like, ‘Holy smokes. It feels like the NCAA tournament.’ I had everybody else saying that. It just grew on me.”

The goal was to continue to produce a high-quality tournament. The community has embraced the event, according to Cysewski. He praised the local Chamber of Commerce and the arena staff for their work with the university and its athletics department.

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“The Sears Centre does a great job working with us,” Cysewski said. “They give us a lot of flexibility in setting up and a lot of support that way. It’s just been a really good agreement between the two parties. I see it getting better and better.”

The arena has much more floor space, allowing for 10 full mats. An auxiliary gym was needed for two mats at Welsh-Ryan before the move. Teams are able to congregate and warm up in the arena tunnels and side areas. Tunnels provide easier access to the arena.

Cysewski said he has heard others have had a good experience.

“I think the fans love it,” Cysewski said. “Nothing but positives.

“I think it looks like something we can keep it here as long as we can.”

The Welsh-Ryan facelift has allowed for more opportunities to host basketball games during the break. Cysewski said he won’t change the schedule and remains devoted to the traditional dates.

“I don’t want to fight with that,” Cysewski said. “I’m always going to keep the Midlands the 29th and 30th of December. It was that way for 57 years and it will be that way for another 50.”

Iowa still sorting out 184 spot

Many anticipated the Midlands to be a determining factor in the 184-pound starting spot at Iowa.

It still could but don’t expect it to be the end-all, be-all in naming a starter. The competition will continue.

Cash Wilcke helped his cause. He posted a 4-2 decision in sudden victory-2 over teammate Nelson Brands, who was 2-1 in three dual appearances. Wilcke advanced to the third-place match Monday night.

Brands had replaced Wilcke in the national rankings with a win over Iowa State’s Sam Colbray. He has a more energetic and relentless style, which was on display with a 10-point third period against Campbell’s Caleb Hopkins on Sunday. He broke open a 4-4 tie into a 15-9 decision and was just seconds away from another takedown for a major.

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Muddying the waters a bit was redshirt Abe Assad, forging his way to the 184 bracket. His injection into the lineup isn’t likely. Iowa has had other freshmen finish well here, including four-time All-Americans Brandon Sorensen and Derek St. John, and maintain their redshirt.

“We’ll see,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “We have three options there. We’ll see.”

Iowans on the Midlands stand

Two former Iowa preps placed for out-of-state schools Monday.

Harvard 125-pound senior Nolan Hellickson and South Dakota State freshman Cade Devos (157) both finished eighth. They each won state titles for Southeast Polk — Hellickson at 126 in 2015 and Devos at 145 in 2018.

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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